Leave central Paris by luxury coach and travel to Vaux le Vicomte, a handsome little town just 34 miles (55km) southeast of the capital. Its star attraction is the Vaux le Vicomte Castle – the impressive Baroque chateau that allegedly inspired the Palace of Versailles – so hop off your coach and head inside for your audio-guided tour.
While admiring the castle’s plush interiors and elaborate vaulted cellars, learn about Nicolas Fouquet – King Louis XIV’s finance minister – who created the building using the crème de la crème of French architectural talent. Unfortunately for him, King Louis felt upstaged by the extravagant building, and threw him in prison before he could spend too long enjoying it.
After exploring the castle, head outside to soak up the extensive garden scenery, seeing the dramatic fountains, lawns and flowerbeds that cover the whopping 99-acre (40-hectare) site. Enjoy some time for lunch in the on-site café (own expense), and then return to your coach.
Travel the short distance south to Fontainebleau, and then visit your second majestic building of the day: Château Fontainebleau. The only royal castle to be continuously inhabited for over seven centuries, Fontainebleau is one of the country’s more exceptional palaces – deservedly taking a place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Step inside and explore the opulent Renaissance building with an audio guide, hearing all the gossip about the French royals who once called the place home. Gaze upward to see mesmerizing ceiling frescoes, and admire the intricate wood carvings and 15th-century furniture that typifies the castle’s lavish interior.
At the end of your audio tour, head outside to explore the grounds and ornamental lakes independently. Have your camera ready to capture the romantic gardens against the backdrop of the castle, and then return to your coach for your journey back to Paris.